Travis County adopts tax incentive policy

Travis County Commissioners Court has approved a new policy for offering tax abatements to eligible companies to encourage economic development.

The court unanimously approved the policy during its Nov. 27 meeting.

The policy's stated purpose is to attract new businesses in the hopes of stimulating the economy, enhancing the tax base, assisting with workforce development and diversifying the economy.

Policy basics

Travis County is authorized to create a program to stimulate business within its borders.

For a company to be eligible for a base incentive, it must plan to invest at least $25 million in new construction and create at least 100 full-time, nonseasonal jobs. The company must also have a human resources benefits policy and build in certain areas of the county.

In addition, the company must pay employees an hourly wage that equals or exceeds the county's established minimum wage.

If those conditions are met, the county may grant the company a base incentive—a tax abatement of up to 45 percent of its property taxes.

From there, the company can earn additional incentives for meeting goals for job creation, eco-friendly building design and hiring economically disadvantaged employees.

Court comments

Commissioner Ron Davis voiced his support for the policy and said the court needed to move forward with it.

Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt called the policy "tightly written" and said it sets the bar high for companies that wish to receive incentives from the county.

"We must remain vigilant, lest it become a sense of entitlement for every company that moves here that meets a certain number of employees and level of taxable property. This is not for every company that moves here," she said. She added that there were sections of the policy that still could use work.

She later tweeted, "Just voted yes to a tax abatement policy. Hope to hell it's used well and doesn't turn into a corporate entitlement program."

Commissioner Margaret Gomez said that the county has been working on the policy for three years. She called the policy the right thing for Austin and Travis County right now.